I was recently hanging out with some friends from high school. And, as most friends from high school tend to do when they get together, we were gossiping. This time, the topic at hand was our friend's not-so-recent breakup that she still having a hard time getting over.
“You know what her problem is?” one of my girlfriends pointed out. "He never gave her closure. He just dumped her and then, boom, he was out of her life with no real explanation.”
One of my guy friends disagreed completely.
“Nobody gets closure!" she said. "Closure is a made-up idea girls are obsessed with.”
I thought he was being a crazy person. What did he mean, closure's not a thing? Was this some weird, jaded, tough-guy thing he adopted in college? WTF was he talking about?
Much to my surprise, the rest of the guys in the group seemed to agree.
“It's true! Closure isn't a thing at all! Sh*t ends and that sucks, but you just have to deal with it in your own head. It's not the other person's job to deal with it for you.”
I started wondering: Were they right? Did I believe in closure because my female friends and I were socialized to think it was the only way to move on?
I thought back to all of the dating advice I'd ever gotten from my friends and family throughout the years. And there was a lot of it, seeing as I literally cannot make a single decision without consulting everyone I know. I tried to focus on how the relationships ended. As I reflected, I realized that it had always been my girlfriends who encouraged me to reach out and get the closure needed. My guy friends told me to meet someone new as soon as possible -- to really make an effort to "move on" by myself, without closure.
So I had to know the facts -- was this really a thing? Did guys really not need closure? Or were all of the guys around me just big fat liars?
I decided to reach out to Dr. Niloo Dardashti, a psychologist and relationship expert in New York City, to answer my questions once and for all.
It turns out that we all need closure.
Dr. Dardashti explained that gendered societal norms encourage men to avoid talking about their feelings:
"There's a difference in that sometimes men try to get closure by using some more behavioral tactics like going out more, trying to date more, or get out into the world again quicker. Whereas women might need some more time to process and deal with their emotions about the breakup."
That being said, Dr. Dardashti really stressed that the need for closure is something we all — male and female — share.
She explains that in a typical relationship, there is always going to be one person who is more willing and able to talk about feelings and emotions than the other person. The need for closure in a relationship depends on the people in it. It also depends on who initiated the breakup.
The person who is more confused about what went wrong (usually the person who was dumped) is more likely to make an effort to talk to the other person about what went wrong and try to figure out what happened. Meanwhile, the "dumper" is usually more guarded -- most likely in an attempt to stand by the decision.
All in all, closure comes when you really start to understand your role in what went wrong in the relationship. She said:
“Real closure comes from letting go, and letting go is much more powerful when you can look back and really pinpoint what happened.”
So, even if you initiated the breakup, remember to be empathetic. Remember that you cared about that person -- and probably do still -- and give him or her the gift of truly letting go.
But where does that leave us with ghosting?
Dr. Dardashti warns that the relationships driven by texting -- which we've grown so accustomed to -- are more prone to ghosting. Try to avoid being ghosted from the get-go by replacing that “Hey, what's up?” text with a phone call.
That being said, calling people is scary, and we're probably going to keep texting. Therefore, we're probably going to keep getting ghosted.
But what do you do if the person you need closure from just isn't willing to give it to you? Aka, what do you do if you end up being ghosted?
Find people you trust and are vulnerable around, and really try to talk it out with them. If you don't have anyone like that in your life, therapy is another great option. In a healthy way (don't dwell!), you need to embrace your vulnerability and be willing to really "go there."
But, all in all, Dr. Dardashti urges us to just buck up and STOP GHOSTING:
It would be so wonderful if people were not only more open to feedback but were open to giving feedback. Relationships would truly improve if people were willing to 'go there,' both by facing the discomfort of explaining to someone what didn't work for them and in reflecting upon the feedback that they might get from someone who lost interest. One must remember, however, that giving feedback is very uncomfortable, especially if you are someone who has trouble tolerating the feeling of disappointing another person. So ghosting can be out of a lack of consideration but can also be out of the need to avoid disappointing others.
Yeah, disappointing other people by being honest about why you're not into them anymore is tough. But leaving them hanging without any sort of explanation might be the only thing meaner than that.
You see, my guy friends were wrong. Turns out, people may have a hard time moving on from their exes because they really DO need closure, because closure really IS a thing. We all need closure. My guy friends will need closure after girls inevitably break their hearts.
And, honestly, anyone who's ever been through it knows this is true. Heartbreak is hard, and it happens to all of us. The least we all deserve is some closure.